salto mortale

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From Italian salto (leap) + mortale (deadly).


salto mortale (plural salti mortali)

  1. A dangerous and daring jump with possibly lethal outcome.
  2. (figurative) A risky, dangerous or crucial step or undertaking.
    • 1867 July, William Dean Howells, “At Padua”, in The Atlantic Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics, volume XX, № CXVII, chapter i, page 25/1:
      I take shame to myself…for having been more taken by the salti mortali* of a waiter who summed up my account at a Paduan restaurant, than by all the strategies with which the city has been many times captured and recaptured.
      * Salti mortali are those prodigious efforts of mental arithmetic by which Italian waiters, in verbally presenting your account, arrive at six as the product of two and two.
    • 1919, Boris Sidis, The Source and Aim of Human Progress:
      The frenzied, suggestible, gregarious, subconscious self, freed from all rational restraints, celebrated its delirious orgies, its corybantic bacchanalia, held its mad salto mortale over the grave of crucified humanity.